|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
31 Jan. - 6 Feb. 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Fear of fairness
Sir- And "what about the Geneva Conventions" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January) for the 2,800-plus who died in the Towers and on the planes? Were they warriors?
The truth is that you know that these thugs will be treated humanely because America is in fact what they most fear: a fair, pluralistic and open society. Join us in that.
Ryan L Lanham
Sir- Faiza Rady's piece entitled, "And what about the Geneva Conventions?" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January), is a perfect example of the type of irresponsible, unprofessional and petty journalism that contributes to misunderstanding among citizens of the world.
Reading this piece makes me wonder if the writer knows anything of the subject matter or endeavoured to research the topic at all.
If Al-Ahram Weekly seeks journalistic credibility, it had better consider more thoughtfully what appears on its pages. If not, then by all means continue with the status quo.
I pity your patients
Sir- Re Margaret Doocey's letter to the editor (Al- Ahram Weekly, 24-30 January):
Ms Doocey, how dare you talk about our bias or Faiza Rady's bias, when your description of Egypt and Islam is so full of it? Obvious you have never been to Egypt, nor known Egyptians! Thank God that I have been to the US, and have wonderful American friends, otherwise I might have generalised and concluded that you represent the typical American, God forbid. As for female circumcision, one of the things you referred to, if I understood correctly -- it has been completely banned by the Egyptian government. And where on earth did you get your information that homosexuals are beheaded in Egypt?
I will not debase myself and respond to your letter in your own fashion. I can compete with neither your vocabulary nor your expressions. But if your literary fluency is the result of "Western education" as mentioned in your letter, well this is one sort of education I would rather do without.
For your information, Egypt is a country that has embraced all religions throughout history. Its people, many of whom are poor, live together and help and support each other. Yes, there are fanatics in any religion, and our country has suffered from terrorism, but terrorists have no religion. They are brain-washed, mentally sick individuals, regardless which religion they originally belonged to.
Islam, like all basic religions, teaches love and kindness (I am a Christian, by the way), and your narrow outlook to others is to be condemned. Your blind accusations are unfounded.
I noticed that you live in New York. I can understand your anger -- you probably are still suffering from the traumatic experience of 11 September, events that shocked not only Americans but the whole world, including Egyptians -- but I cannot excuse the rude and arrogant way in which you expressed yourself.
You say you are a psychotherapist? Well, I pity your patients!
Sir- I have been meaning to write for some time to congratulate you on your new funnies page, "Letters to the editor." However, I do think you should be a little more selective of the "letters" you include, as some of them are not very funny at all.
Stick to the really funny ones, the "you people" type, like "Alan L Leibowitz, US" and "Margaret Doocey, New York, US" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January), which both had me in stitches. In the latter, I particularly admired the comic irony introduced by the writer in pretending to be a "psychotherapist" while expounding such outrageous views -- heaven help her patients if this character were real!
Full marks to the inventive creators of these and other humorous pieces, but please try to make the rest funnier.
Otto G Pupikofer
Pot in book
Sir- I am writing to tell you that my two daughters and myself are great fans of Fayza Hassan's column in Al- Ahram Weekly. We all enjoy it; in fact, it is the first thing I turn to every Thursday, and on the rare occasions when it isn't there, the week is not the same! Now that both my daughters are studying in the UK, I often find myself cutting out the column to send them. I particularly enjoyed the account of her taxi driver's marital woes (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January)!
I wonder if she has ever thought of publishing a collection of these articles, in book form? I'm sure her many thousands of fans, in this country and abroad, would rush to buy such a book. I should think it would be a great success.
Not just the occupation
Sir- I have great respect for Edward Said, but I feel that his emphasis on ending the Israeli occupation diverts our attention from more fundamental issues. I think that one of the reasons the occupation continues is because any alternative so far presented has not promised to bring peace and security to either side of the conflict.
A simple ending of the occupation (and the setting up an independent Palestinian state) will not improve the situation of one quarter of Israel's own citizens who are "Israeli Arab" (Palestinians) and who live in Israel as second-class citizens. The population of the West Bank and Gaza represents only one third of the total Palestinian population worldwide. Ending the occupation is not going to appease the four million Palestinian refugees who demand to have at least the right to return.
Rather than a move toward a solution, I feel that this emphasis solely on ending the occupation and setting up an independent Palestinian state, without addressing the other issues, will only ensure perpetual conflict.
I invite Edward Said to consider the peace initiative proposed by the Alternative Palestinian Agenda (ap-genda.org). It is a workable option that defines ways of resolving the problems that a simple "ending of the occupation" cannot. The bi-national configuration proposed by the APA allows for the affirmation of the Jewish state together with a Palestinian one. The proposal addresses all of what are considered to be the most difficult issues, and it is something that reasonable people who want peace (and as Edward Said suggests, there is a growing number of those) will endorse. Both Palestinians and Israelis would enjoy security because they would share in it, and both would be accepted in the region.
Brooklyn, New York
Tehran on target
Sir- I just read Galal Nassar's article "Targeting Tehran" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January). Needless to say, it focused well within the boundaries of real political movements against Islamic states, in particular Iran, but I feel it could have outlined in more detail the racist nature of US and Israeli actions against Islamic states, in particular Iran. Overall, well written article and well done.
Opposed to occupation
Sir- I am vehemently opposed to my government's support of the Israeli government. I applaud these women who oppose the occupation ("Diary of an occupation," Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January).
Unfortunately, the so--called liberals in the US are afraid to denounce their government's participation in this outrage. It seems they are afraid of offending their Jewish friends.
Free and alive
Sir- Mr Shukrallah hit the nail on the Hamas head by condemning the suicide attacks ("Ultimate sacrifice," Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January). Hamas and the other let's-blow-ourselves-up groups are obviously doing more harm than good to the cause.
The US-Israeli charade of "war on terrorism" thrives on these suicide attacks to force the world into making a god out of Israel and demons of the Palestinians. More importantly, why should any Palestinian lose his/her precious life?
Stay alive, to ensure that you can enjoy the freedom of your land one day. I know it is very easy for a guy like me to sit in India and say these things; but surely, that's the right decision. You cannot have a free land that just serves as a cemetery for your dead men and women.
Masters of propaganda
Sir- I, as an average American, have but one question for you: what is it that you wish the American government to do? Do you want our government to get behind the Palestinian Intifada and declare that it is perfectly permissible for the people of Palestine to strap bombs on their backs and intentionally kill innocent people?
As for the war in Afghanistan, your propaganda machine in Egypt is alive and well and is doing quite a job of inciting your people. In Afghanistan hundreds of innocent lives were lost. But thousands of Al-Qa'eda and Taliban were killed. If they (Taliban and Al-Qa'eda) were being harboured by others, they too lost their lives. This is war, and it's not pretty. Your country has fought many wars. Your region has fought many wars and trust me, many innocent lives were lost in such fighting. I am in no way justifying the loss of lives, but loss of life in any war is a reality. You would think by reading your articles that America is the only nation that has ever fought a war where innocent lives were lost. You know deep in your heart that a lot of good came from the liberation of Afghan people. They are certainly smiling now and you know it. You have to demonise our government so you find the only negative that you can conjure up and you exploit it. My! Are you not the masters of propaganda!
Your region has a big black eye. The reason that the Palestinians are receiving no help from the US or the European Union or for that matter the UN is because of your policy regarding suicide bombers.
Fundamentally, the policy of suicide bombing is wrong. You can argue all you want and justify it to your heart's content but this is wrong. It is for this reason that your cause will fail. It will not only fail, but will fail miserably. There simply is no fundamental justification for intentionally killing innocents. Never has been. Never will.
Both Israel and Palestine should exist and live peacefully side by side.
I believe that this would be possible if both sides would concede to the other side some important and painful things. First, the Israelis should end occupation of Palestinian villages. Secondly, the Palestinians should drop their "right of return" to displaced Palestinians. I believe that if this happened the US government and the United States general population would send massive amounts of money to provide aid to the displaced Palestinians, allow the "new state" of Palestine the right of self-determination, and join the international community as a full-fledged member. Unfortunately, this will probably not happen due to the fact that in the region, suicide bombers are encouraged and embraced by the general population overwhelmingly.
Call me a dreamer, but maybe peace could happen. America wants this to happen, as does the world. This is for the Palestinian people -- if you would just get rid of the terrorists and denounce them instead of embracing them, very good things could come your way. As long as you embrace this awful practice, your black eye will just become blacker and eventually you will no longer see.
Reap what you sow
Sir- I recently read the article entitled "They came in the night" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January). The article is pure bombastic propaganda. Your constant disgraceful comparisons of Israeli actions as on a par with Nazi Germany ignores the fact that when the Nazis were finished there were 90 per cent fewer Jews alive, whereas the Arab population in the territories and Israel proper has multiplied nearly five-fold. Nazi tactics would have seen these people taken to extermination camps, not given warnings.
Jews were not killing Germans, neither did they have the capacity to build tunnels or supporters who would supply them with sophisticated weaponry to use against their enemies.
Your reports fail to mention that the Israeli press reported that there were 21 homes destroyed and they were vacant. You also failed to mention the area was the source of daily firings against Israeli positions. Perhaps those who use civilian areas for attacking Israelis bear some responsibility.
A little more honesty would add to your credibility and perhaps give your readers a more balanced picture of why Israeli actions are necessary for there security.
The perpetrators of violence, no matter the cause, are guilty of the violence that they sow.
Sir- Re "On terrorism, again" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17- 23 January): Azmi Bishara puts forth the thesis that the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima was the biggest terrorist act of all time, because the US had already won the war and because mostly civilians were killed.
In 1945 the Japanese had lost the war for about one and a half years already. Their army and navy had been driven by American forces back across the Pacific. The Japanese home islands were surrounded by powerful US carrier forces. Their merchant marine was mostly sunk. They were making fuel out of pine roots. There was hardly any food. The cities had been burned out by American fire bombing. But they had not surrendered or given any indication that they would surrender. Japan had never lost a war and Japanese never surrendered. Japan had never been conquered. In fact, after the emperor intervened and ordered surrender, there was an army coup in Tokyo to prevent surrender, which failed.
The Japanese had been warned in the Potsdam declaration issued in Germany by the Allies that they must surrender unconditionally. There was also a phrase that let them know, if they didn't surrender they were going to see unimaginable destruction. They rejected the demand. The US Army estimated 200,000 to one million American dead and of course millions of Japanese dead in an invasion and conquest of the Japanese home islands.
Whether "terrorism" or total war, the atomic bombing of Japan achieved its purpose: the surrender of Japan without further warfare. Only the men who fought that war, surely one of the most hellish of all wars, have the right to judge the actions of Truman and the Americans of that era. You can be sure American soldiers were extremely happy to hear the news that Japan had surrendered. I can also tell you that if the Japanese hadn't surrendered after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more atomic bombs were ready to be dropped on a schedule until they surrendered.
Sir- In relation to the Palestinian homes recently destroyed in East Jerusalem, and the Israeli claims that they were built illegally because they had no building permit: I remember seeing a novel written by a New Zealander named Bob Jones, in the late 1970s/early 1980s, about a landowner -- the main character of the novel -- who, when faced with incomprehensible bureaucracy when he wanted to build on his own land, simply went ahead and did it.
That is the attitude many people in the West have to governmental regulation -- if it works for you, then it's good, if it works against you on your own property, just go ahead and do it anyway. And if the government doesn't like it, then it had better have very good reasons -- otherwise the landowner can take it to court, and may very well win.
It is in such simple things that Israel's racism becomes apparent, and as a Westerner myself, I am ashamed it claims to be a part of the Western democratic tradition.
Laughing at Hiroshima
Sir- Concerning "On terrorism, again" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 January): Azmi Bishara provides a prelude an excellent example of an Arab Marxist doing a bad imitation of his American counterparts. He had me going for a while, because, even though I'm from the political far-right, I was disgusted by our support of dictatorships throughout the Cold War. That part of our history is sad, disgusting and embarrassing.
But then he launches into the lunatic foaming-at- the-mouth so typical of the American left when he starts in about the atomic bombs on Japan. That line gets nothing but a laugh in the US and as Arabs mature politically, they'll laugh, too.
Roger D McKinney
Sparks of creativity
Sir- Which "nail in the coffin" will ratify the demise, or perhaps death, of any hope of progressive Arab unity or sovereign, representative independence in the region? What final act of degradation will ensure the impotence of Arab political, cultural and intellectual thought?
Apparently there is a substantial lack of motivational interest generated by 1) the criminal and incessant acts of terrorism, such as "targeted assassinations" and collective demolition of homes against the Palestinian people while illegal settlements on their occupied land continue to expand; 2) the brutal murder and sanctioned torture of the Iraqi people for over a decade, based on a Gulf War premise that is devoid of any justification under international law and tacitly supportive of a former "ally" that has officially "gone bad;" 3) the subjugation of our apparent leadership through repressive economic policies; and 4) the recent squeeze that has gradually, but unequivocally, emanated from the myopic patriotism synthesised in recent months, replete with pointed, even desperate, racism and hatred toward Arabs.
Maybe the answer to the question "what would Mandela have done?" (when prohibited from attending Christmas mass by an occupying force) will spark thoughts, creativity and progressive action from the Egyptian intellectual community.
Amr El-Bayoumi (international lawyer)
Sir- I am a teenage American girl and though my age may be easy to laugh at, I would just like to comment on how I, too, would love to go to Egypt some day. I find My heart is in its dreamy presence daily. Perhaps this may be an assurance to those of you who believe we hate you, that not all of us do. In fact, many of us worth knowing are quite in awe of all the beautiful wonders that mainly only the Middle East holds. Such treasures, life, history and love (evil too)!
It would be a great pity to see all of those great monuments, those beautiful deserts that go for miles, mountains and talents, fall to shambles because of war. Yet, I have heard that Egypt is quite interested and insistent on struggling for peace, and as long as that is true, I find comfort and warmth in my heart.
I hope one day, your miraculous country will be free from war, because that is all her land has ever wanted. Cleopatra, Nefertari, and many more. I enjoy your paper and I hope nothing but peace for you and your people.
A state, now
Sir- The rapidly accelerating American- Israeli programme aimed at delegitimising the Palestinian administrative authority (in order to avoid a political settlement) is frustrating to observe, but may point us toward a viable, workable solution. The success of this ongoing delegitimisation programme highlights the fact that as long as Palestine remains a non-state, it is open to geographic plunder, the arbitrary arrest and torture of its citizens as well as outright murder. Palestinian efforts at self-defence can be labelled terrorism successfully because of their non- governmental status. This nonsense is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in this week's announcement by the US government of its intention to spend some $40 billion in defence of Americans while in the same breath castigating the Palestinian Authority for importing a boatload of light arms in order to protect its citizens.
Lack of statehood has consequences further afield. Nations that might wish to assist Palestine's economic and social recovery find it difficult, if not impossible, to do so while it remains, politically, a non-entity. Governments cannot deal, legitimately, with foreign non-governments.
The most direct solution would be a declaration of Palestinian statehood through the United Nations, with whatever level. political support is possible. Middle Eastern and other countries which cannot justify military support for Palestine might welcome this opportunity to express solidarity with the Palestinian cause and, more importantly, remove an escalating cause of destabilisation from the global political and economic horizon.
America's standing in the world will inevitably diminish if Israel continues to succeed in manipulating Congress to the point of permanently preventing a political solution. And of course, removing the hope of eventual statehood will only fuel greater levels of violence.
The circuit-breaker is statehood. Quickly.
Sir- I would like to comment on the reporting of Ms Lola Keilani (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 December 2001), "Pilgrimage tragedy," about the condition of the highway between Amman and Aqaba.
That highway is an international route connecting the Arabian Peninsula with Europe and it is always maintained in excellent condition. Every one who travels on the highway can testify to that. Why she reported that the highway is notorious for its "bad condition" is really perplexing.
Akef Adib Qusous
Majesty of yore
Sir- I would like to congratulate you on the special pages on King Farouk ("The birth of the republic," Al-Ahram Weekly, 24-30 January). It is indeed a very interesting part of Egypt's history. Unfortunately, we don't have sufficient books and chronicles easily available about that era. Again, I thank you very much and would love to read more supplements on King Farouk and Egypt during that period. It was very educational. Whenever I ask about books, photos, or any other interesting objects from that period, the answer in Egypt is always vague. Most of the bookstores have nothing to share, and the public sector's response is denial or does not retain anything of that period.
Another very educational piece was the Diwan, "Press growing pains". My compliments to Al-Ahram Weekly, a respectable and serious newspaper that makes us proud in the States to show it and share it with Americans who love Egypt.
One more request, before ending this letter, we enjoy very much Ms Lubna Abdel-Aziz, always interesting, full of information and educational topics with perfect English. Please relay our compliments and inform her that we are proud to have her back in the spotlight.
What they want to be
Sir- Re "Their mother's country," Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 January: This year, Australia Day in Australia is a day when thousands of people will celebrate Australia's multiculturalism and what it means to be Australian. The Australian government has asked people residing around the country, who are not citizens, to join in ceremonies and pledge their allegiance to this wonderful country. Some are renewing their pledge and others are proudly becoming citizens for the first time. They are from Vietnam, New Zealand, China, England, India, Iraq and even Egypt. It doesn't matter where they were born or who their parents are; it matters that they want to live here and be called Australians.
Wouldn't it be a sad day if all those thousands of people couldn't express their joy of being here because their mother was born somewhere else?
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